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Even More Good News for Stem Cell Research

By Brian | January 17, 2007 | Share on Facebook

From Dr. Wes via Instapundit: Stem Cells Create Beating Heart Muscle:

The researchers, whose study appears in the on-line edition of the prestigious journal Circulation Research, created the heart tissue in their lab by sorting human embryonic stem cells that turned into heart muscle cells and growing them together with endothelial cells and embryonic fibroplasts. The culture was carried out in three dimensions on a scaffold made of self-destructing sponge material that the researchers also created in their lab. In the future, they will look into the possibility of implanting the engineered cardiac tissue, with the blood vessels improving the implantation of the new tissue and its connection to the blood system.

The technique is aimed eventually at helping patients who have cardiac insufficiency due to heart attacks.

They say it’s too early to tell how this might be incorporated into an actual human heart, but still – amazing stuff.

Also note that all of this progress comes without significant government funding. Assuming the new Congress gets its way, it’ll be interesting to see if increased government funding makes the progress speed up or slow down…

Topics: The Future is Now | 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “Even More Good News for Stem Cell Research”

  1. jason says at January 17th, 2007 at 3:08 pm :
    it’ll be interesting to see if increased government funding makes the progress speed up or slow down…

    I imagine the outcome to your question will depend on how many bureaucratic hoops researchers have to go through to get the federal funds.

    Fascinating stuff, though. Somewhere in my vast archives o’ stuff, I’ve got a newspaper clipping with a photo of a human ear growing on the back of a rat, using a mold that sounds very similar to this “self-destructing scaffold.” The rat’s body was providing nutrients to the new ear tissue as it matured, with no harm done to the host animal, IIRC. That was about 15 years ago, and I recall thinking it was the coolest, science-fictiony-est thing ever. If only I’d known what was to come…

  2. Jeff Porten says at January 20th, 2007 at 11:11 pm :
    I get vaguely queasy every time you post about stem cells, but haven’t yet found the time for a full-fledged rebuttal. So just a few questions in passing:

    1) would you mind elucidating upon which scientific progress, if any, has been slowed by government funding? Without examples, this is one hell of an assumption you’re making.

    2) given that just about every scientist involved in stem cell research went on record as saying that the Bush ban would deter progress, why are you so happy to think this has been entirely refuted when you hear about anecdotal evidence in the popular press?

    3) are you aware that government funding bans tend to be widescale in nature? That is, take an institution like the University of Pennsylvania — it is unable to engage in banned research without risking the loss of all government funding. The result is that such research, when carried out by private companies, becomes privately owned — the public utility of such knowledge being the whole point of government funding in the first place.

    I’m not certain how such restrictions have affected stem cells in particular, but thought this was worth mentioning. It is not the case that government funding is a simple matter of cash flow.

  3. Brian says at January 21st, 2007 at 11:36 pm :
    More answers to more questions from Jeff:

    1) Any scientific research in which government funding takes longer to obtain than private funding would have taken is, by definition, slowed down by government funding. Sorry, I don’t have examples and I guess it’s possible that this situation has never come up, but I’m guessing it has.

    2) Actually, this isn’t true at all. I have some personal, first-hand experience with this. A family member went through IVF and attempted to donate their unused embryos to scientific research about two years ago. They spoke with several researchers. All were fully funded, and all but the last one refused the donation because they had enough donated embryos to fill up their study. Obviously, the last one accepted, which is why they stopped looking.

    A more accurate statement would be, “just about every scientist WHO went on record said that Bush’s ban deter progress. Many did not go on record and found adequate funding from various other sources.

    I should also point out that Bush’s ban wasn’t a ban per se. It represented the first time in U.S. history that federal money had been allocated for stem cell research, but limited the number of stem cell lines that could be used. Those who wanted unlimited research (myself included) tend to think of it as a restriction, since it was less than what we wanted, but in actuality, it was an important step forward…

    3) What you say about institutions like Penn would be true, if in fact, federal funding were denied for this kind of work, which it wasn’t. Penn was (and is) free to engage in stem cell research, as long as it uses the approved stem cell lines (and, in fact, Penn just completed construction of a new state-of-the-art facility that is being hailed as an active hub for stem-cell research: link).

    As for private companies keeping discoveries private, I’d like to see a source that backs up this argument, because it sounds like a crock to me. When private companies make breakthroughs in medical fields, the only way they recoup their investment is to get the discovery published in a reputable medical journal, and then license the technology/patents/formulas/etc. to manufacturers, hospitals, drug companies, etc. at a profit. I can’t imagine a private company would have a breakthrough (like the one described above) and then keep it a secret from anyone…


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